every runner has a story

Meet Will Strouse

► from Pennsylvania
► started distance running in 1984 at age 40
► LRC member for 40 years

A runner and LRC club member for the past 40 years, Will Strouse, now approaching 80, plans to run until he cannot and then walk briskly until he cannot. Running had an incredibly positive impact on his life, allowing him to do things after age 40 that were unthinkable to him in his 20s and 30s.

Will Strouse’s journey into the world of running began later in life. As he approches his 80th birthday, Will shares some of the highlights of the past 40 years. Having relocated from Pennsylvania to Winter Haven, Florida in 1958 (BD as this family liked to say [Before Disney]), his early sports focus was on Little League baseball, with a casual involvement in track during high school and college. Sprinting was his preference; long-distance running was for “those people” who seemed peculiar. His 20s and 30s were dedicated to coaching youth baseball and soccer, alongside a career as a teacher and school-based leader.

A transformative shift occurred when, at the age of 40, Will, now working in professional development, encountered two avid distance runners from data processing. Curiosity led him to join their after-work training sessions, marking the initiation of his foray into long-distance running. It took nearly six months for Will to conquer a 3-mile run without walking. As the challenges diminished, the joy of running emerged.

In 1985, Will participated in his first Lake-To-Lake 10K, bypassing the conventional ladder of racing a 5K then a 10K. He wanted to show the guys who got him started what he was made of, and his finishing time of 52+ minutes showcased his determination. Over the years, he continued to refine his skills, achieving a personal record of 41:21 in the same race four years later. Forever maintaining a “sprinter” mentality, Will, achieved personal records in his 50s across all distances, 18:58 (5K), 5:21 (mile), 60.2 (400 meters), 1:37+ (half marathon), and 4:03 (marathon).

A dedicated member of the Lakeland Runners Club (LRC) for 40 years, Will attributes his success to the running community. “I have found extraordinary joy in running for 40 years. I have experienced successes, met hundreds of fantastic people, aged gracefully, and contributed to the running community in Lakeland and Polk County through my membership in LRC”. Will served on the Board of Directors, directed the Lake-To-Lake race for a decade, and has volunteered at numerous events. “What stands out about the LRC to me is how it has contributed to improving and engaging ALL types of runners and running. LRC has continued to grow, contribute to, and support the sport of running because of its leadership and volunteers. Their enthusiasm and vision have been evident throughout! I would encourage everyone who is engaged in our special sport to seek opportunities to get involved with the LRC”.

Will’s running journey brought profound joy, self-discovery, and numerous achievements. Winning his age group in a marathon at 70, he plans to repeat the feat at 80 (in 2024). Alongside a plethora of running events, including marathons, half marathons, 15Ks, 10Ks, 5Ks, triathlons, and even an ultra event, his life wouldn’t be the same without the support of fellow runners and his wife, whom he met through running.

Reflecting on his experiences, Will identifies the Mayfaire 5K and all LRC events (past and present) as his favorites. Despite a few injuries over the years, he maintains consistent training, finding camaraderie, support, and accountability within the running community. Recounting his worst running experience during his first marathon where he “ran the first half like a sprinter,” Will advises new runners to join groups, embrace the positive social aspect of modern running, and run their own race.

In his closing thoughts, Will shares his philosophy on running. He emphasizes that running is a life-long sport, promoting graceful aging and the disruption of aging. As he approaches 80, Will plans to continue running until he can’t, followed by brisk walking. “We are all going to “check out” one day, however [to paraphrase a Teddy Roosevelt quote] we can rust out or wear out. Wearing out is much more fun! That is my plan!”

 Will encourages readers of his story to adopt healthy habits that will make life on planet earth a happier experience for ourselves and others:

  • Move, problem-solve, and associate with “younger” people.  Running has helped Will do these 3 essential things.
  • Give more than you receive.  Running helps Will focus on that.
  • Focus on self-improvement. Humans are not one-dimensional beings. We are made up of mental, social/emotional, physical, and spiritual components. The sport of running addresses all 4 of these variables. “It is obviously physical in nature. Many say it is as mental in nature as it is physical. It provides a positive social/emotional opportunity [community] unlike most other sports. It has a spiritual nature that focuses on one’s place in the scheme of life, however one may perceive it to be”.
  • Finally… in Will’s words “Keep calm and run on!”

Will has also completed 1,683 miles of  the Appalachian Trail (only a little over 500 miles left)!

Will and wife Kristi, 2009

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